The 2014 Winter Olympics Aren’t the Only Reason to Visit Sochi
As the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi has enjoyed more than its fair share of global exposure in recent weeks. But there’s more to the coastal city than just winter sports events. Its subtropical climate and great attractions make it a perfect holiday destination all year round.
Located near the Georgian border in southern Russia, Sochi’s subtropical climate has earned it the nickname ‘Russia’s Riviera’. The warm temperatures of the Black Sea coast means the city enjoys a mild climate all year round, thus escaping the deep freeze which often blankets other parts of the country.
It is also becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, thanks to a variety of attractions, beaches and natural scenery.
Botanical Gardens with a view
Sochi’s botanical gardens are home to over 2,000 exotic plants, trees and flowers spread across 120 acres of beautiful park land. The garden, or Dendrarium as it’s known locally, slopes down a hillside in the south of the city and can be reached by foot or via a gondola, ideal for a birds-eye view of the gardens and the wider city. As well as being awash with luscious colours, the Dendrarium also features fountains and architectural designs – some of which date back to when it was first founded in the late 1800s. It is split into various geographical sections, each containing plants and trees from a specific part of the globe. Make sure you head to the garden summit in order to fully appreciate the views of the city and the surrounding Black Sea.
Entry to the park costs 250 rubles for adults and 120 for children aged between 7 and 14.
The Singing Fountains
Located outside the Sochi Trade Gallery, just a short distance from Park Inn by Radisson Sochi City Centre Hotel, The Singing Fountains are one of Sochi’s most visited attractions during the summer months. Each evening during summer, the spectacular fountain comes to life with a captivating visual display and sound system which enables the fountain to ‘sing and dance’ to the accompanying music.
Hit the beach and cool down in the Black Sea
Swimming in the sea is generally quite comfortable from early summer into September, although locals and visitors have been known to take the plunge both in spring and late autumn. Although the city’s beaches are formed by pebbles rather than sand, they are nevertheless extremely popular during the warmest months. The turquoise waters of the Black Sea lend themselves well to snorkelling; the perfect way to burn off some energy after a few hours of sunbathing.
As well as soaking up the sun on the beach, Sochi is home to a range of attractions suitable for the whole family. Just a short drive to the south of the city is the Sochi Discovery World Aquarium– the largest of its kind in Russia.
Here you’ll find a total of 30 aquariums spread across 6000 square metres, home to some of the ocean’s most fascinating creatures. The underwater tunnels allow you to get up close to various species of sharks, rays, piranhas, turtles and clown fish (think back to the film ‘Finding Nemo’ and you’ll get the picture). The aquarium also has a cafe and gift shop and is open seven days a week.
If you prefer to stay nearer the city centre, then look no further than Riviera Park; one of Sochi’s biggest tourist attractions. Having originally been constructed with a view to entertaining Russia’s Tsars, the park today offers plenty of green space in which to relax and re-energise. The kids will love its selection of amusement park rides, whilst a host of concerts and cinema showings take place in the evenings throughout the summer months.
Discover the city through its museums
Housed in one of the city’s most spectacular buildings, the Sochi Art Museum is a must visit for both art enthusiasts and lovers of fine architecture. You can’t help but miss the four pillars which form the grand entrance which dates back to 1936. Here you’ll find a mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions which feature the work of some of Russia’s greatest artists, as well as local artists from the Sochi area.
Elsewhere, one of the city’s most popular museum attractions allows you to set foot inside the former home of Joseph Stalin; the one time leader of the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin’s Summer House has been well preserved in recent years and features many of his personal possessions, including his chess boards and private movie theatre. The mansion-style home is located just outside Sochi and offers a fascinating insight into the personal life of one the most famous political figures in history.
A taste of Sochi
The region’s warm temperatures lend themselves well to fruit and vegetables, many of which can be found in the stalls lining the city’s lively Central Market. Dating back to the 1930s, this street market offers you the chance to purchase fresh fruit, fish and meat. Even if you’ve no intention of dipping into your pockets, it is nonetheless worth a visit just to experience the hustle and bustle of the market place.
You may also want to stop by Adlersky Market, where cafes and restaurants selling the best local delicacies line the market’s perimeter.